While most Hay River residents may be taking a bit of a break during the in-between season when winter sports end and summer ones have yet to really get going, one man and his team are hard at work making sure that switch can happen.
“The first thing is to make sure everything is safe,” said Kim Tybring, the lead hand facilities maintainer for the Town of Hay River. “Then we can work on making them look good.”
Tybring and his crew of full-timers and summer students were hard at work all last week getting the town’s baseball diamonds ready for the start of league games at the beginning of June. The town is in charge of three such parks – two full size and one for minor ball – and gets them up to scratch for the summer and maintains them throughout.
“When the leagues are running, we go over the parks twice a week,” said Tybring. “We cut the grass, repaint the lines, and just generally clean up.”
But that can only happen once everything is up and running. Tybring’s team must first inspect and assess damage done over the winter, by both natural and human culprits, clean up any garbage, and start work on preparing the infield.
At the Pine Point diamond, most of the bleachers are over 30 years old and made of untreated wood, meaning loose boards and broken steps need to be replaced on a regular basis.
As for tilling the infield itself, it’s a process involving many steps. Tybring explained that, first, the shale has to be aerated after long months under snow, then it can be watered to keep dust to a minimum and tamped down before being painted. He also said sometimes he uses flour instead of paint for the lines as it’s cost effective and does no harm to the environment, though he did concede that the ravens that come to eat the flour can be problematic.
“I hope to have it all painted up by tomorrow,” Tybring said on May 22. “Then we’ll weed and feed the outfield in about three weeks.”
Cutting grass remains one of the primary tasks for facilities maintenance staff in the summer as students Fraser Anderson and Adam Lakusta learned last Wednesday. Both were given crash courses in lawn-tractor driving, including how to stay safe on the job.
“You will rue the day I catch you without helmets and hearing protection,” Tybring told the young men.
Anderson took the job with the town for the summer to get a bit of a break from cooking, for which he is going to school.
“I wanted to work outside,” he said. “Maybe even get a tan.”
So far, he said the job consisted of cleaning up parks and raking leaves.
“They’re good workers,” Tybring said of the summer students. “The full-time staff are excellent and, with these guys, we really have a good group.”
Tybring wasn’t always the head of the team, and he knows well how Anderson and Lakusta will be occupied for the season.
“I spent two years cutting grass 40 hours a week in the summer,” he said.
Tybring added he likes hiring local young people because it gives him a chance to develop their skills and maybe later hire them full-time.
Finding more full-time staff who are committed to the job and reliable can be tough, he noted, adding that by “training them up fresh” he can get them working efficiently from the beginning.
“It used to be that a facilities manager was a Zamboni driver who did a bit of janitorial work,” he said. “That’s all changed. Now you have to know all kinds of computer systems and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) specifications.”
Tybring has completed courses in both those areas and takes pride in caring for Hay River’s recreational spaces. His self-professed personal mission is to eradicate graffiti in town, though he has so far limited himself to town property.
“Walk around here and you’ll see that we have some of the cleanest public places in the area,” he said. “And when people can feel proud of their town like that, they respect it, and themselves, that much more.”
— Sarah Ladik